Sam Smith – Live @ Spark Arena, Auckland 2018
Last night I attended the 90th show of Sam Smith’s The Thrill of it All tour. First of 2 shows set to be performed in Auckland and on the final stretch home with only 10 shows remaining.
WORDS BY KIMBERLY JONES
Yet again Spark arena was packed to the rafters with so many out on a windy Auckland night to catch a glimpse of Sam. Upon collecting my tickets I see a sign stating that $20 from every guest ticket is being donated to the War Child Charity, of which Sam is an ambassador, a nice surprise.
The backdrop to the stage was full of handwritten lyrics and a series of quotes on the side screens by people like Joni Mitchell and Stephen Hawking. Opening the evening was Gordi, an Australian Folktronic singer/songwriter. With the raft of New Zealand talent available, it would have been a perfect opportunity to give a kiwi artist some stage time.
With hardly any preamble Sam hit the stage looking dashing in a baby blue suit with a plain white tee and announces “Auckland let’s have fun tonight” then starts off the night with One Last Song. “I want to hear you sing every word!” And Sam dove right into Not The Only One. Starting the night with 2 of his biggest hits and already a standing ovation, the English singer/songwriter had the audience in the palm of his hand.
“You guys are seriously f***ing loud.”
We were told that, of course, Sam and his band were looking forward to being back in NZ since they sat down and planned the tour. Sam said he suddenly realised after listening to his tracks, how “depressing” some of his music is and that they had all worked very hard to make sure we “left this room feeling good”.
Next up was Lay Me Down, a song that completely changed his life while working in a bar in London at the age of 19. A short instrumental break had Sam join a campfire circle with this 4 back up singers, Lucy, LaDonna, Chris and Patrick and perform a short acapella snippet of I Sing Because I Am Happy
“Are you ready to dance. On your feet!!!!”
Omen had more people rise to their feet and finally get their groove on. Not as well known as Sams’s hits, this still got some crowd participation in chorus. With an electric guitar solo by Louie, Sam announced Nirvana is for all those that have been with me from the beginning and the stage floods with green lights including the triangle of lighting at the back of the stage
Straight into I’ve told you now. The sole focus of the stage blue and purple lighting.
Another instrumental, featuring the piano and cello this time, lead into the Bond theme and as any self-proclaimed Bond Fan, I know that The Writing’s on the Wall is up next. Sam strides into stage in the most dramatic performance of the evening commanding attention befitting the Bond legacy.
“How fucking dramatic was that”
Money On My Mind was followed by Sam’s favourite part of the show, introducing his band that has been with him for the last 5-6 years. With Louie on guitar, Brendan on Bass, Dan on drums, and Harry who has known Sam since he was 18 totally owning the cello.
When Sam was last in NZ, he was doing a radio interview and a young boy called to talk with him. Sam dedicated Like I Can to this caller. While all the crowd was on their feet, Sam belted out Restart with Reuben out from behind the piano now rocking a keytar and boogying up to the front of the stage.
You Drive Me Crazy has arms in the air and provides each of the backup singers their solo’s while Sam slinks off for a quick wardrobe change. Both guitars solo out the front just as Say It First starts to ramp up. Midnight Train plays and I see couples reaching for each other which I found a bit ironic really as the song is about walking away from someone you love.
Sam took his over shirt off to deafening screams and applause and with a serious amount of bass, performed HIM. Speaking quickly during the song Sam says, “I am a proud gay man! Love is love! If you are proud of Auckland, let me see your hands!” The atmosphere inside the area was so charged and even more so as the song ended with a bang and one hell of a rainbow light show.
“Pretend we are in the biggest gay bar in the world” brought us round to Promises and Sam danced his way round the stage with the crowd yelling TONIGHT where appropriate. My personal favourite, Too Good At Goodbyes finished the main set in style with the audience again drowning out Sam’s vocals.
Back on stage for the encore, we are treated to 3 songs including Palace, beautifully performed with Lucy as a duet. Confetti rained from the ceiling for Stay With Me and almost every word sung by the crowd. Rounding out the night, Pray was powerfully delivered and we get farewelled by Sam saying, “I’m not just saying this, but that was possibly one of the best shows we have done.”
“Get home safely have a beautiful weekend. And if I don’t see you tomorrow, I’ll see you soon”